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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Respect TV’s women writers

Hollywood has a big problem and, no surprise, it is its view on women. Female artists are constantly derided and asked questions such as, “Is your work autobiographical?,” “Are your characters likeable?,” “Are they intentionally unlikeable?,” “Do you know what you’re doing when you write scripts?” and, most importantly, “How do you do it with kids?”

In a panel at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, female showrunners and writers Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Jenji Kohan and Kristen Wiig — moderated by The New Yorker’s TV critic, Emily Nussbaum — held a panel discussion titled “Power of Story: Serious Ladies.” In the first half hour, the women got to talking about the irony surrounding the discussion. Nussbaum even asked the panel if they felt that an all-women panel further isolated them in an industry that already does that.

The panel spoke to how the male-dominated critic base and public reduce their work to their personal lives, refusing to acknowledge artistry and instead labeling their work selfish autobiography. Works that they produce are deemed “female successes” if they’re lauded at all. What makes something a female comedy rather than just a comedy? This is, unsurprisingly, a problem that male artists do not have to deal with.

Dunham deleted Twitter off her phone in the wake of controversy over her memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl.” The author, director and actress has come under fire for her sometimes problematic autobiographical narrative. She can certainly be problematic — let’s get that straight — but she’s also entitled to her own narrative to generate stories that are seemingly autobiographical but are, in fact, fictionalized.

Dunham and Kaling may share faces, voices and, in the case of Kaling, even a name with their characters, but they are entitled to exist outside the realm of their writing. Dunham’s character on “Girls,” Hannah Horvath, claimed to be the “voice of her generation,” shortly before falling to the ground under the influence of drugs. Satire is satire, and writers have a right to editorialize. For men in the industry, no one is comparing them to their characters.

“I don’t think that Larry David or Woody Allen or anyone else playing some version of themselves is walking around with a million people who think they know and understand them on a deep abiding level,” Dunham said. “Woody Allen is proof that people don’t think everything he says in his films is stuff that he does, because all he was doing was making out with 17-year-olds for years, and we didn’t say anything about it.”

For Dunham, “Girls” has adapted this season to comment or respond proactively, and occasionally, reactively, to criticism. In the first episodes of season four, Dunham’s character is torn apart for producing content for her writer’s workshop that, like Dunham’s content, is viewed and derided as the musings of an excessively privileged girl submitting to abuse just because she can.

So, when industry darlings and topics of controversy such as Dunham, Kaling, Kohan and Wiig say they are not their characters, accept that. Move on and cherish the art they produce. If it really helps, pretend Steven Spielberg or James Cameron made it instead — because then it would actually have some merit, right?


Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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